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Sleep Quantity + Sleep Quality = Better Math/Language Scores

Sleep Quantity + Sleep Quality = Better Math/Language Scores

A new study confirms that it is worth a parents effort to ensure that their school-aged child receives a good nights sleep.

Researchers from McGill University and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal found that sleep quality and duration are linked to better performance in math and languages — subjects that are powerful predictors of later learning and academic success.

In the study, investigators found that “sleep efficiency” was associated with higher academic performance in those key subjects. Researchers defined sleep efficiency as a gauge of sleep quality that compares the amount of actual sleep time with the total time spent in bed.

Study findings have been published in the journal Sleep Medicine.

While other studies have pointed to links between sleep and general academic performance, the Montreal scientists examined the impact of sleep quality on report-card grades in specific subjects. Their findings: with greater sleep efficiency, the children did better in math and languages — but grades in science and art weren’t affected.

“We believe that executive functions (the mental skills involved in planning, paying attention, and multitasking, for example) underlie the impact of sleep on academic performance, and these skills are more critical in math and languages than in other subjects,” says Reut Gruber, a clinical child psychologist who led the study.

Low academic achievement in children is a common and serious problem that affects 10-20 percent of the population. “Short or poor sleep is a significant risk factor for poor academic performance that is frequently ignored,” says Gruber.

Gruber’s research team studied 75 healthy children between seven and 11 years of age. The children’s nighttime sleep was monitored by actigraphy, which uses a wristwatch-like device to evaluate sleep by measuring movements.

“We averaged the data over five nights to build the children’s habitual sleep patterns and correlated the data with their report-card grades,” Gruber says.

The findings underscore the importance of identifying sleep issues that may otherwise go unnoticed, Gruber says.

That doesn’t mean parents need to rush out and have their kids tested at sleep clinics — but it does point to a need for pediatricians to incorporate questions about sleep into routine checkups, she adds.

“I think many kids might have some sleep issues that nobody is aware of,” she says.

“And if the pediatrician doesn’t ask about it, we don’t know that it’s there. Regular screening for possible sleep issues is particularly important for students who exhibit difficulties in math, languages, or reading.”

Source: Douglas Mental Health University Institute/EurekAlert

Child waking up in the morning photo by shutterstock.

Sleep Quantity + Sleep Quality = Better Math/Language Scores

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Sleep Quantity + Sleep Quality = Better Math/Language Scores. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 9 Jan 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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